BERLIN - We take forests for granted. We forget they’re the reason we breathe, until they burn. We don’t know of all the ways they keep us safe, until we’re sick. We ignore how our way of life threatens them, until they're gone.
Forests are not spared by corruption: illegal logging, illicit wildlife trade, land grabbing and drug trafficking are some of the plagues that lead to critical deforestation, hampering efforts against the climate crisis and making agreed-upon carbon neutrality goals moot.
Environmental crimes are among the most profitable types of cross-border criminal activity.
Forestry crimes alone up to K530 billion per year, while the total annual value of environmental crimes is estimated to be as much as one trillion kina worldwide. This is 10,000 times the amount spent by international agencies which are combatting it.
Environmental crimes also have a disastrous human cost. Detention, murder and torture are common tactics to frighten communities defend their homes.
These crimes are enabled by corporations such as British oil company Soco International, which allegedly paid thousands of pounds to a Congolese military officer accused of violently silencing opponents to the oil exploration project that would destroy Congo’s Virunga National Park.
Corruption kills, and this trend sees no slowing down, with a tragic record of 212 land and environmental activists murdered in 2019.
The world’s two largest tropical rainforests - the Amazon and the Congo Basin forests – are incredible havens of biodiversity and sought-after resources for the corrupt.
As Amazon and Congo local communities keep watch on their land, international institutions are slowly starting to catch up.